Nick Baumgartner

Nick Baumgartner earns Olympic spot over Seth Wescott

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Nick Baumgartner cried. A fourth-grade class at Stambaugh Elementary School screamed.

Baumgartner was named to his second U.S. Olympic Team on Friday, beating out two-time Olympic champion Seth Wescott for the final spot on the men’s snowboard cross team going to Sochi.

U.S. coaches told Baumgartner he had been selected at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., after he and Wescott were eliminated in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon.

Baumgartner then called Stambaugh Elementary in Iron River, Mich., where he was connected to his 9-year-old son, Landon, to spread the word.

“I was crying,” Baumgartner said. “Losing it.”

He quickly got a call back from the school, which wanted confirmation because Landon was being coy about the news. Baumgartner obliged, and he could hear the classroom’s reaction on the other end of the line.

It capped a stressful two weeks for Baumgartner, who was the top U.S. rider not to earn automatic qualification onto the Olympic Team during the World Cup season.

Three other men did, leaving one spot for the U.S. team to fill as a discretionary selection with either Baumgartner or Wescott, who was coming back from April ACL surgery.

Wescott finished 49th and 31st in his first two races back two weeks ago, but was thought to still be a Sochi candidate given he’s the only Olympic champion men’s snowboard cross has ever known.

The Winter X Games were seen as a last chance for both riders to impress selectors.

Wescott competed in Friday’s quarterfinals first, finishing fifth where the top three advanced. Baumgartner watched Wescott’s race at the top of the hill on a TV screen, cheering for him. He admires Wescott, but at the same time seeing the result put him at ease.

Ten minutes later, Baumgartner set out on his quarterfinal and also finished fifth. He was dissatisfied with his performance in the immediate aftermath, but, after making the Olympic Team, said he felt good overall.

“I was happy with my riding again here,” Baumgartner said. “I thought I rode really well, really smart and going for it. That’s what it takes to win.”

Baumgartner was still teary eyed from talking to his son when he made eye contact with Wescott for the first time after the Olympic announcement.

“[Wescott] came up, gave me a big hug and said congrats,” Baumgartner said. “He’s a role model for me. I think he should be for everyone.”

In 2010, Baumgartner accomplished his goal of making the Olympic Team. His sights are set higher this year, given he’s won X Games gold and silver since the Vancouver Games.

“Half the goal was to make the team,” Baumgartner said. “Now my goal is winning a medal and bringing it back to Michigan.”

Baumgartner joins Alex DeiboldNate Holland and Trevor Jacob on the men’s Olympic Team. The women’s team has not been announced yet, but it will include Lindsey Jacobellis and at most two more riders.

Wescott, 37, has said he will continue to compete with an eye on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. He would be the oldest snowboarder in Olympic history if he’s able to do so.

Jacobellis breaks X Games record

Swimmer Reece Whitley named Sports Illustrated’s Sportskid of the Year 2015

Reece Whitley
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Swimmer Reece Whitley, who earned two silver medals at the World Junior Championships earlier this summer, was named Sports Illustrated Kids’ Sportskid of the Year for 2015.

Whitley, a breaststroker, stands 6’8” at age 15 and is a sophomore at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. His 100m breaststroke time is 17th in the country, and his 200m time is 10th. He is the youngest swimmer to be ranked that high in both events.

“Making an impact on a young swimmer at a meet is probably more important than the times that you swim,” Whitley told SI Kids. “All these records are meant to be broken, but if you change a kid’s life or if you put a smile on a kid’s face because you took a picture with them, that never dies.”

“Getting to know Reece a little bit, he’s incredible,” 18-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps commented. “The guy is very talented, he’s super relaxed, super outgoing. He’s seeing results, he’s having fun, he’s enjoying himself. He’s a stud.”

Phelps has been known to call out “studs” in the past who do well in Olympic years. After the 2011 World Championships, Phelps told Jimmy Fallon that Missy Franklin was a stud, too. Then, at the 2012 Olympics, Franklin picked up four gold medals and a bronze.

Whitley beat out other four finalists for the title: taekwondo athlete Natalie Hershberger, 11; speedskater Cooper McLeod, 14; rock climber Ashima Shiraishi, 14; and cross country/ track and field athlete Harper Russell, 15.

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Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan remembers slain Colorado officer, a childhood friend

Nancy Kerrigan
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former figure skating champion Nancy Kerrigan remembers the Colorado police officer who was killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic as loyal, caring and a true friend.

She told media outlets that Garrett Swasey was “one of my best friends” as they grew up together practicing figure skating in Melrose, Massachusetts. Before he became a police officer, Swasey was a junior national couples ice dancing champion.

An emotional Kerrigan says she wasn’t surprised he took a career path where he helped others first. She says he always had fun and did everything with a smile.

Swasey’s father has told the Boston Globe that his son moved to Colorado in the 1980s to pursue competitive figure skating and became an officer six years ago.

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